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5 Alternatives to the “Time Out”


Looking for alternatives to the “time out”? Yeah, me too. Before I had children, jumping to easy conclusions as most of us probably did before we had children, I thought my friends who executed the “time out” were brilliant.

Make the kid sit by himself, think about what he has done, calm down and join us again (2 minutes for a 2 year old, 3 minutes for a 3 year old and so on). Easy. I watched it. It worked so well.

Then I had children. Toddler communication is hard. I tried time outs. It didn’t feel right. I liked the idea of taking time to calm down but there had to be a better way.

I read more about how a child’s brain develops (particularly around emotions and discipline) and I felt some affirmation. Our home tries out best to execute positive discipline, to listen to our sons and to acknowledge their feelings. My husband and I want to be mindful parents. In fact here are all the lovely children’s books on mindfulness that we integrate into our daily routine!

My “gut” told me that my son felt sad and rejected, not remorseful. My “gut” told me that he was not sitting there pondering the depths of why he did what he did and why it was wrong, but instead wondering why and if his mom is mad at him.

My “gut” told me that there were more effective ways to help him deal with his emotions and subsequent behavior, and that would better prepare him for the world.

My ‘gut’ told me those really intense moments are not the time for anger and punishment in solitary confinement but instead, as difficult as it can be, are the absolute most crucial time for connecting with as a parent.

Alternatives to the “Time Out”

  1. The Gentle Hold: When he is particularly “energetic” (shall we say), we hold him tightly until he relaxes.
  2. Count to Ten: Hold him and together count to ten. If he squirms, start the count over.
  3. Three Deep Breaths: Hold him and together take three deep breaths.
  4. Serene Pose: My friends kind of giggle at me when I bring this one up but it works in our home. We read a great book called Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda. In that book, we are introduced to a “serene pose”. In addition, we try to do a few yoga poses each day so this idea of being “serene” is not such a far fetched one. Simply sit “criss-cross applesauce” and place your hands on your knees, close your eyes and take deep breaths.
  5. Tickles: We call it “tickle torture” but it is really just a way to make your child laugh. We say, “if you aren’t able to calm down, you have three options: 1) tickles, 2) boops or 3) kisses.” 9 times out of 10 this alone gets him to snap out of his bit of crazy. Then we can address the behavior if we feel we need to do so.

Sometimes the behavior is the result of a lack of self-control and doesn’t, in my view, require a long lecture about why the behavior is not okay. Instead, end the behavior, says it is not acceptable and move on.

If you are looking for some additional alternatives, check out this post. I love the author’s reference to mindfulness and how she weaves it into parenting. Lovely.

I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment!

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